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#2865603 - 07/09/17 09:44 AM salsa band advice
cedar Offline
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Loc: New York
I've been asked to sub for a salsa band next weekend. Leader seems to have some very rudimentary charts, which consist mostly of chord changes and occasional lines. I've listened to a few tunes, and notice that they often begin with a piano riff (clave?) that seems pretty specific. My hope is that the rhythmic line is fairly similar from tune to tune, because I'd prefer to avoid transcribing (if possible). I'm guessing that the rhythm is more important (to the band leader) than the precise notes. I'm also told there will be some opportunity for soloing.

Any advice? This is my first time playing in a salsa band but could turn into a regular gig I suppose.

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#2865607 - 07/09/17 10:09 AM Re: salsa band advice [Re: cedar]
BbAltered Offline
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I suggest you ask these same question of the band leader.
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#2865608 - 07/09/17 10:16 AM Re: salsa band advice [Re: cedar]
U.Honey Offline
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Salsa is all about the rhythm. You kind of have to feel the groove. Some songs have 2-3 clave and some have 3-2 clave. And, for montuno piano the pattern is different depending whether the song has 2-3 clave or 3-2 clave. That's probably the first thing I would try to figure out, which songs are 2-3 and which are 3-2. That's not always obvious. Ask the percussionists if you're not sure.
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#2865609 - 07/09/17 10:23 AM Re: salsa band advice [Re: U.Honey]
Jazz+ Offline
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#2865614 - 07/09/17 11:39 AM Re: salsa band advice [Re: Jazz+]
J. Dan Offline
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I've never played in a Salsa band, and when I've attempted the style at home out of curiosity, I found I had a really difficult time connecting to it - just very foreign to me compared to what I'm used to.

That said, FWIW, I would attack it the way I attack anything like this based on limited time.....triage!

1) start (as you are) by going through all of the songs playing along to get the rhythmic feel, not necessarily doing note for note, but following the changes and getting the rhythm down. During this time, get as familiar as you can with each and every song and start sorting out in your mind which parts are going to need to be note for note.
2). Go back and start transcribing/learning the note for note parts - this will most likely be those intros and any other parts that really stand out.
3) once you've nailed 1&2, practice improv soloing over each tune.

Of course, probably the best advice above was to talk to the BL to make sure you're meeting expectations.
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#2865615 - 07/09/17 11:43 AM Re: salsa band advice [Re: cedar]
TAdorno Offline
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Loc: Northern NJ
the piano part is a "montuno". "clave" is the rhythmic pulse throughout the song, the percussion must lock in with the "clave" for it to groove properly. ya, the rhythm is important.

there are different, but typical, types of intro's...this one is chordal




there is a break at around 1:43 on this tune



1) lots of intros are like that break. You can play the rhythmic pattern of that break in most tunes.
2) under no circumstances can you blow break like that. the conga player will you hold you down while the timbale player beats you. Screwing up a break like that is far worse than blowing it as an intro

the into to oye como va (anyone's version) is a standard, but old pattern. its not used so much anymore. and dont listen to the bueno vista social club for tips.

el gran combo and sonora pocena are basically "the rolling stones" if the salsa is very Puerto Rican. if the salsa is more colombian, those styles will work fine but you wont get the same respect if you tell the guys you were checking out el gran combo.

Another tip would be “mambo” refers to the instrumental section, the non-improvised horn parts. So they may say at rehearsal (if you have one) “take it from the mambo”. “mambo” might be written on you music, it is marking the section, not the rhythm. A “chorro” is the chorus. “3 bar break” usually refers to the clave changing from 3-2 to 2-3 or vice versa. Think of it like you have a 4 bar phrase that repeats several time. They will count off three bars and then the 4th bar becomes the 1st bar the new phrase.

What tunes are you doing? Do you have to play any merengue (easier to do once you know it, but harder for us gringos to do correctly right out of the gate….and merengue kinda sucks and can cause tendonitis)

Here’s a more modern tune. I wouldn’t be surprised if you had to do this one.



Ill go youtube some good soloing examples and post them in a few





Edited by TAdorno (07/09/17 01:56 PM)
Edit Reason: to make videos work
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#2865620 - 07/09/17 11:59 AM Re: salsa band advice [Re: TAdorno]
cedar Offline
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#2865621 - 07/09/17 12:04 PM Re: salsa band advice [Re: TAdorno]
J. Dan Offline
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Loc: St. Louis, MO
Originally Posted By: TAdorno

(edited because embedding videos didnt work. how can i do that?)


The way your links are formatted, when you enter it into the box to embed, just delete everything up to the the last slash so that just the characters after the slash remain

The format of the links Cedar posted will embed if you wish the, to be embedded, or, the short version would be to just enter the characters after v= in the box. Conversely, you can take the characters at the end of your links and do links like Cedar's with those characters after the v=.


Edited by J. Dan (07/09/17 12:07 PM)
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#2865623 - 07/09/17 12:22 PM Re: salsa band advice [Re: cedar]
TAdorno Offline
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Loc: Northern NJ
For soloing, regular “jazz” soloing works fine. If it’s a crowd that is into Salsa, piano solos are cool. People like them. It’s as much part of the show as the percussion solos.

Eddie Palmieri is often considered the king
dig what he does with the montuno’s too

But in some circles, Popo Luca is god



some approaches havn’t changed in decades


if panicked, think ahmad jamal


if that doesn’t work and the panic really sets in, play like you would for Beyonce.

And don’t think about this




Edited by TAdorno (07/09/17 01:59 PM)
Edit Reason: to make videos play
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#2865624 - 07/09/17 12:35 PM Re: salsa band advice [Re: J. Dan]
TAdorno Offline
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Registered: 12/10/16
Posts: 21
Loc: Northern NJ
thanks, but still doesnt seem to work.

if i just put 0xT7maXs-UU in the box, i see those letters in a post, not a video
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Round these parts we play all three kinds of music! Salsa, Cumbia AND Merengue

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#2865627 - 07/09/17 12:57 PM Re: salsa band advice [Re: cedar]
TAdorno Offline
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Registered: 12/10/16
Posts: 21
Loc: Northern NJ


"Old school"! I like it. But this is harder. you might have an easier time if it was marc anothony tunes or anything 90's and later. You can sort of do that intro to the first tune on the third. that break on the 5th tune at the beginning is hard to do right and have it groove properly.


(the following is said with tongue firmly placed in cheek)
get a shoe box and a small doll of a man. put two playing cards in the box, standing up so you can read them and also an airplane sized bottle of rum. if you can get a Saint's card with St Barbara on it, that would be optimal. call the doll Chango and thank him for letting you play this music. do this every night between now and the gig.

its like how Sublime said " i dont practice santeria...", but calling on the divine for help always works
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Round these parts we play all three kinds of music! Salsa, Cumbia AND Merengue

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#2865628 - 07/09/17 01:03 PM Re: salsa band advice [Re: TAdorno]
MathOfInsects Online   content
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So subtle, and those guys are not shy about letting you know you don't have the feel quite right. Bring a seatbelt and a hardhat.
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#2865630 - 07/09/17 01:13 PM Re: salsa band advice [Re: MathOfInsects]
TAdorno Offline
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Registered: 12/10/16
Posts: 21
Loc: Northern NJ
Originally Posted By: MathOfInsects
...those guys are not shy about letting you know you don't have the feel quite right...


that is correct, they absolutely are not shy about letting you know if you dont have the right feel.
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Round these parts we play all three kinds of music! Salsa, Cumbia AND Merengue

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#2865634 - 07/09/17 01:34 PM Re: salsa band advice [Re: TAdorno]
J. Dan Offline
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Registered: 07/25/08
Posts: 10813
Loc: St. Louis, MO
Originally Posted By: TAdorno
thanks, but still doesnt seem to work.

if i just put 0xT7maXs-UU in the box, i see those letters in a post, not a video




Works for me.

Hit quote on this to see what the UBB looks like.

I literally just hit the video button, selected YouTube and pasted in the letters you typed.
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Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

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#2865636 - 07/09/17 01:43 PM Re: salsa band advice [Re: J. Dan]
timwat Offline
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Afro Cuban music has its own rhythmic pulse, just like rock has it's own pulse vs. jazz vs. funk.

Even if you learn all the voicings, if you don't feel swing, dabbling in jazz will sound inauthentic and 'something's off'.

Same is true with Afro Cuban. Jazz guys' first foray into it often reveals not having a heart steeped in the rhythm. Clave is the pulse as noted above, comes in two 'flavors' (2-3, 3-2), and montuno is the way harmonic instruments (piano, sometimes guitar) comp through that.

Suggest you look up Rebeca Mauleon as a starting point to get a quick primer:



Edit: Oh, and Jazz+ is right on the money. Typically, you'll need earplugs. LOL



Edited by timwat (07/09/17 01:46 PM)
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#2865640 - 07/09/17 02:01 PM Re: salsa band advice [Re: J. Dan]
TAdorno Offline
Member

Registered: 12/10/16
Posts: 21
Loc: Northern NJ
got it! thanks!

I didnt see the media button, so i misunderstood what the box was
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Round these parts we play all three kinds of music! Salsa, Cumbia AND Merengue

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#2865641 - 07/09/17 02:05 PM Re: salsa band advice [Re: timwat]
TAdorno Offline
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Registered: 12/10/16
Posts: 21
Loc: Northern NJ
Originally Posted By: timwat
... and montuno is the way harmonic instruments (piano, sometimes guitar) comp through that.



"guitar"? hmmmm....curious word....it means what? hehe
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Round these parts we play all three kinds of music! Salsa, Cumbia AND Merengue

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#2865652 - 07/09/17 02:47 PM Re: salsa band advice [Re: TAdorno]
CEB Online   content
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You know how race horses wear blinders? If you are new to Latin piano there may be times you need blinders for your ears. The timbales are loud and strong and often play on every spot except where the piano plays. You might have to learn to shut the timbale player out of your mind. It might be difficult. LOL.


Edited by CEB (07/09/17 02:48 PM)
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#2865658 - 07/09/17 03:16 PM Re: salsa band advice [Re: CEB]
cedar Offline
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Loc: New York
Lots of great stuff in these replies. I've also been searching for guides since starting this thread and found a very useful book by Hector Martignon. I'm just skimming it now, to see what I should read more closely later, and found this anecdote, which I was amused by.

Quote:

When I first had the honor of playing with the Tito Puente Big Band, sitting in for a temporarily impaired Sonny Bravo, the first thing Tito told me was: "If you are a real salsa pianist, you have to know fo-fi ... do you know fo-fi en Fa?" I answered: "W ... what do you mean"? "Yes, fo-fi; don't you know it?" When I was about to give up in despair, everybody in the room burst into laughter. So Tito started singing: "fooo-fi-fo­fi-fo-fi-fo-fi-fi," onomatopoeically imitating the sound of a piano playing a 1-IV-V figure in its most typi­cal way, and fittingly asking me to play it in Fa, or F.

Quote:
In Tito's practical joke, fo represents the octaves, and fi the less dominant chords.

(Book contains some explanatory musical phrases, but I can't copy them into the post apparently.)

Like many things, the more I learn, the more I realize how much more there is to learn,


Edited by cedar (07/09/17 03:17 PM)

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#2865722 - 07/10/17 01:57 AM Re: salsa band advice [Re: cedar]
I-missRichardTee Offline
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I do not know your circumstances, esp regarding how much you need to make this gig "yours".
Assuming you want it..

Man I will never forget one loooong night where I got an icy cold shoulder from the whole band.. I foolishly thought my ( this was on bass, not piano ) earlier experience with a serious Latin band, would hold me in good stead. I was wrong. The previous Latin band ( I was told the leader had been in the Buena Vista Social Club) involved CHARTS for all the music... nothing was winged, EVERY single line was written... and that is why I falsely assumed I could handle a gig without charts... no way, Jose, no way. Never again will I make that assumption.
Bass parts can be written... I do not know but it seems like piano parts would have to be memorized in the main.

If you really want this gig... I would quickly find a Latin pianist, preferably mature one, who knows this music, and hopefully can communicate all the things you have to play.
I am used to at the very least, partially relying on others in the band for how I play, and when I play, and what I play and how I phrase.
There is an independence in this music.. that I find a bit overwhelming... you really have to know it.

So if you have that desire and discipline learn all the songs by rote as J Dan suggested.
AND get a coach
the books are fine and dandy, but if this is important, get a player, and expect to work with him more than once between now and gig.

Best of luck
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#2865746 - 07/10/17 05:06 AM Re: salsa band advice [Re: I-missRichardTee]
Al Quinn Offline
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Originally Posted By: I-missRichardTee
If you really want this gig... I would quickly find a Latin pianist, preferably mature one, who knows this music, and hopefully can communicate all the things you have to play.

I agree.

Cedar, I see you're in NY. If you're looking for a teacher I highly recommend the guy I studied with in the early 80's. His name is Bill O'Connell. Monster jazz player (e.g., played with Sonny Rollins) and monster latin player (e.g., had a long run with Dave Valentine). I think he's teaching latin jazz at Rutgers now, but perhaps he's still taking private students.
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#2865750 - 07/10/17 05:24 AM Re: salsa band advice [Re: Al Quinn]
Outkaster Offline
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My teacher is a Latin jazz player and can play Salsa. Believe it or not there is a difference. You have to feel it plain and simple. Remember you can only go to school on Caribbean Music so much. A lot of it is learned on the streets...it really is. For example I am learning this right now. It's not really Salsa but there is a montuno part in the song. Tough stuff because it's based on feel:



Music based on rhythm is boring for a lot of guys because they don't know how to be a small part of a larger picture.
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#2865777 - 07/10/17 07:11 AM Re: salsa band advice [Re: Al Quinn]
cedar Offline
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Originally Posted By: Al Quinn
Originally Posted By: I-missRichardTee
If you really want this gig... I would quickly find a Latin pianist, preferably mature one, who knows this music, and hopefully can communicate all the things you have to play.

I agree.

Cedar, I see you're in NY. If you're looking for a teacher I highly recommend the guy I studied with in the early 80's. His name is Bill O'Connell. Monster jazz player (e.g., played with Sonny Rollins) and monster latin player (e.g., had a long run with Dave Valentine). I think he's teaching latin jazz at Rutgers now, but perhaps he's still taking private students.


I think Bill used to teach at the music school where my son took lessons, and once substituted for his teacher.

Honestly, I have no idea right now whether I will want to become a regular member of this band right now. I would describe myself right now as kind of intrigued. But I agree with everyone that some private instruction is surely in order if I want to pursue this. Right now, just trying not to embarrass myself this coming weekend.

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#2865782 - 07/10/17 07:52 AM Re: salsa band advice [Re: cedar]
Outkaster Offline
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It's a tough genre and you have to love it or else it won't come off right. Sorry to be negative cedar its just like that with these genres....especially if you want to dig deep into it.
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#2867267 - 07/16/17 12:22 PM Re: salsa band advice [Re: Outkaster]
cedar Offline
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Loc: New York
Well, that was interesting.

Overall, the gig seemed to go pretty well. Band members were complimentary and I've been asked to play at least one other gig.

My preparation mostly consisted of listening to the tunes repeatedly. I reviewed the charts with a few of the musicians, but it definitely did not amount to a rehearsal.

The charts were not that great, in retrospect. They mostly were changes, with an occasional montuno written out. For my own sake, I transcribed a few montunos and basic rhythmic patterns.

Going in, my main worries were: (1) overplaying; (2) sounding too much like a jazz musician pretending to be a salsa player (which was is the truth); and (3) nailing a few passages where the piano played a riff alone, sometimes as a cue to the others.

As it turned out, I should not have worried about following the charts because the entire group was pretty disorganized. Musicians were just using visual cues or shouting out what section was next. There were many very extended solos. Over 2 hours, we only played a total of about 7 tunes. Endings were far from tight.

On the other hand, the musicians all could play and my sense was that they were truly authentic salsa players.

As for me, I was most comfortable soloing, insofar as I was encouraged to stretch out. I think I did a reasonably good job of emulating salsa pianists at those times. But I may well have strayed too far when comping. Most of the time, I found myself improvising and/or modifying montunos, or rhythmic patterns. On only a couple of tunes did I strictly adhere to 1-2 particular montunos.

I should also say that I'm afraid my tempo may have flagged on one tune, towards the end of the gig. I simply got tired.

I'm looking forward to trying this all again, after getting more feedback from the musicians. I doubt that I will be performing with these types of bands on a regular basis but it was definitely a great learning experience.

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#2867315 - 07/16/17 07:04 PM Re: salsa band advice [Re: cedar]
TAdorno Offline
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Loc: Northern NJ
Cool. These gigs can be a blast. I've always found that in Salsa bands some of the horn players can really play well. The charts be real roadmaps. After 20 years of salsa/cumbia/merengue charts...i fear no chart!

Glad to hear you did well!
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#2867332 - 07/16/17 10:21 PM Re: salsa band advice [Re: TAdorno]
I-missRichardTee Offline
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Registered: 09/04/11
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Originally Posted By: TAdorno
Cool. These gigs can be a blast. I've always found that in Salsa bands some of the horn players can really play well. The charts be real roadmaps. After 20 years of salsa/cumbia/merengue charts...i fear no chart!

Glad to hear you did well!


Bravo to you my friend. it figures a new yorker would have it together enough to get called back. I am happy and impressed that you made this ( for me ) difficult transition.

For me a cumbia is easy, as is a merengue ( if the merengue is not too authentic ) , but the salsa! When I think of salsa though, I am thinking of my era , the 70's. That stuff is terrific, but over my head.
Which of those styles did you find most easy, and most taxing?


Edited by I-missRichardTee (07/16/17 10:22 PM)
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#2867363 - 07/17/17 06:09 AM Re: salsa band advice [Re: I-missRichardTee]
cedar Offline
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Registered: 10/04/14
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Loc: New York
I am finding salsa the hardest, perhaps it is because it is the newest.

One other observation. In jazz, I've always thought that the bass was the most important instrument for maintaining tempo, even more so than drums. During this gig, though, I got the sense that the musicians may have been looking to the piano more than the bass for this function. I don't know if that is standard or whether it reflected the bass player in this particular group.

For example, I mentioned that my tempo flagged at one point. I don't know whether that was my fault or whether I was just reacting to the bass player. I suppose the most likely answer is that this was a shared responsibility. But even that would be an adjustment from the usual jazz combo, when the piano does not have a principal role in maintaining tempo.

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#2867366 - 07/17/17 06:17 AM Re: salsa band advice [Re: cedar]
Outkaster Offline
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It's a music based on rhythm, the clave. That pulse has to be felt. My buddy in the Mambo Kinds is a conga player based here locally. He teaches drum clinics to students at a music school based here that is very conservatory based. They have a jazz program but the majority of the kids won't get it because they can't feel it. I am glad your gig went well cedar.
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#2867401 - 07/17/17 08:40 AM Re: salsa band advice [Re: Outkaster]
Bobadohshe Offline
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I'm thrilled for you that you made the gig and they dug you enough to ask you back. Great work.

As someone who plays salsa and latin jazz on occasion, here's my advice: Spend the time before your next gig trying to crawl inside the concept of 3-2 vs 2-3 clave and really master your understanding of it.

-Listen to tunes and try to figure out whether they are 3-2 or 2-3
-Take some basic fundamental salsa chord progressions (ii V I VI) (I IV V IV) (I7 vamp) and play them both in 2-3 and 3-2.
-Try to get to the point where you can take any chord progression and montuno through it both in 2-3 and in 3-2. (like a jazz standard).
-Teach yourself the difference between bolero, cha cha and mambo. (It's largely tempo, but you'll play different patterns for each)

There are a couple fantastic books for this.

Salsa Piano - The Complete Guide - This book has a ton of practical approaches and several killer demo tracks as well as lots of little tricks I haven't seen anywhere else.

101 Montunos - Rebecca Mauleon Wonderful overview of lots of different montunos - will reinforce the other stuff and also gives a bit more of a historical and broader afro cuban ensemble overview. Her Salsa Guidebook is good too but this is a more practical place to start for a pianist who doesn't have tons of time.

Salsa, Further Adventures in Afro Cuban Music - Carlos Campos This book predates the others and has pages and pages of systematic chord progressions laid out in 2-3 then 3-2, in major and minor and in every inversion. Very useful in driving home the difference between 2-3 and 3-2.

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